Turkey’s national holidays relate its independence and to its children. Religious holidays center around Ramadan and Muslim feasts. Our holiday guide lets you know what each special day is about, what stays open and what is closed, as well as Western holiday observances that also take place.
Istanbul has it’s own regional holiday too, which again is related to independence and Istanbul being liberated from allied forces.
The popular tourist attractions, markets, clubs, as well as many shops and businesses keep their doors open during national holidays. On the eve of religious holidays, however, they only open from 1:00 pm onward.
Banks are always closed during, national and religious holidays, along with government services and public services such as post offices. Some museums also close, but in general there most touristy one stays open.
The Grand Bazaar, as well the Spice Bazaar stay closed for the full duration of religious holidays, and also on Republic Day (October 29th).
On the eve of religious holidays (Ramadam, Sugar Feast, Sacrifice Feast) everything is generally closed during the morning and through lunchtime (until 1:00 pm).
With Turkey being a Muslim country, the birth of Jesus Christ is not celebrated and Christmas is just another day at the office. That being said, while Western holidays are not nationally observed, stores and tourist spots do cater to a western audience.
Ataturk Memorial Day
While it’s not an official observance, Istanbul has a large community of Anglo-Saxons, made up of ex-pats and retirees. When you add the fact that tourism brings a boost to Istanbul’s Winter Sales, you’ll see quite a few Santa’s around town along with festive decorations spread about.
While the festive markets of Istanbul are not the same as the Christmas markets of Europe, they are a welcome addition that warm the holiday spirit.
New Year’s Eve
While not a holiday, New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated across Turkey. In Istanbul, there’s an endless list of New Year’s parties going and it’s highlighted by fireworks on the Bosphorus as the clock strikes midnight.
Whether you want to party at a live concert, on a boat, at a ball, in a restaurant or a bar or club, you will not be short on options.
There are also many towers, hills and rooftops that offer great views of the fireworks, along with nightlife areas like Isikital Avenue, Asmali Mecit, French Street and Bar Street where the party never stops.
Istanbul also has offers a 24-hour transit system on Fridays, Saturdays and special days like New Year’s Eve.
Regional Public Holidays
Not every city gets its own regional holiday, but the Liberation of Istanbul was a special moment in time for the city, and as such, it’s a public holiday for Istanbulites.
Liberation of Istanbul
After the Armistice of Mudros in 1918, which ended the Ottoman Empire’s time in World War I, allied troops from France, Britain, and Italy began the occupation of Constantinople. The Treaty of Lausanne was then signed in July of 1923, after Victory Day in the Turkish War of Independence. Still, it took until early October 4th for allies to leave the city.
Two days later, on October 6th, 1923, Turkish armed forces finalized the liberation of Istanbul from enemy occupation. On the anniversary of Istanbul’un Kurtulusu, (Liberation of Istanbul) day the city celebrates its freedom and pays tributes to the heroes, martyrs, and veterans, who helped make it possible.
National Public Holidays
We listed the official public holidays below for Turkey with their 2019 and 2020 dates and have included why and how they are celebrated.
New Year’s Day
New Years Day is known as Yilbasi in Turkey, and unsurprisingly, it’s the first public holiday of the year. Any business that’s not tourist related in Istanbul, which includes banks, is pretty much closed.
That being said, almost all the top things to do in Istanbul are open on New Year’s Day and aside from that all the big hotels usually have a New Years’ brunch, with an astounding number of selections. If you love a good brunch, there’s none better than on New Year’s Day.
National Sovereignty and Children’s Day
Also known as Youth and Sports Day, this holiday commemorates the opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on April 23rd, 1920.
This when the national council denounced the government of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI and then formally announced a temporary constitution.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic dedicated this day to the children in trust that the hands of the youth will honor and protect Turkey’s sovereignty and independence. It’s now also recognized as International Children’s Day around the world.
In Turkey, children run parliament during Ulusal Egemenlik ve Cocuk Bayrami, taking over the jobs of the President, the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, and provincial governors. The children who are bestowed this honor then sign executive orders relating to educational and environmental policies.
Ceremonies can last throughout the week with student performances and events held in large stadiums and watched by the entire, flag-waving nation.
Labor and Solidarity Day
Unlike most national holidays in Turkey, this one is one that tourists should generally try to avoid. Unless you’re a Turkish worker wanting to protest, we suggest you stay away from major tourist districts like Taksim, Besiktas, and Kadikoy where demonstrations will be numerous.
Emek ve Dayanisma Gunu is dedicated to the laborers and union workers and s also known as International Workers’ Day or May Day.
Workers from labor unions across the country stage rallies for workers’ rights, singing songs and chanting slogans. In Istanbul however, the celebrations are still known to have some minor disturbances but included some violence acts back in the 1970s.
Commemoration of Ataturk
The day commemorates the memory of Mustafa Kemal starting the Turkish War of Independence from, Samsun on May 19th, 1919.
It’s also known as Youth & Sports Day due to Ataturk’s belief in Turkey’s children (see National Sovereignty and Children’s Day) and is dedicated to the youth within the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
On Ataturk’u Anma Genvlik ve Spor Bayrami there are a lot of state ceremonies and sporting events, which are mostly youth-related, while parents tend to hang Turkish flags outside their windows.
Democracy and National Unity Day
Celebrates a failed coup attempt on the July 15th, 2016.
Commemorates the Turkish army’s victory over Greek and allied forces in the Battle of Dumlupinar on August 30th, 1992. The battle which stated on 26th, last four days and brought and to the Greco-Turkish War which lasted from 1919 until this final in1922.
Zafer Bayrami is dedicated to the heroes, martyrs, and veterans of the war which eventually led to Turkey’s independence (see Republic Day and Liberation of Istanbul Day). The holiday features military ceremonies and parades, along with a nation full of waving flags.
Republic Day Eve
October 28th (half-day)
Religious Holidays & Feasts
There are three main stretches of religious holidays in Turkey, which run from April through July or May through August depending on the lunar calendar.
Dates of each holiday change yearly, so be sure to check if booking something past 2020.
Ramadan Feast Eve
April 23rd (half-day)
Ramadan Feast Days
April 24th through May 23rd
Sugar Feast Eve
June 3rd (half-day)
Sugar Feast Days
June 4th to 6th
Sacrifice Feast Eve
July 30th (half-day)
Sacrifice Feast Days
July 31st to August 3rd